Sander Hoogendoorn

Death by Dogma versus Agile Assembly

On November 3, 2011 I presented the keynote of the Agile Open Holland Conference in Dieren. During this challenging talk I discussed the current state of affairs in agile organizations and projects and the effects of the recent strong rise in popularity of agile approaches. Let’s put it mildly: there’s a lot of work to be done.

Death by dogma

Almost all organizations, large and small, are turning towards agile to escape failing traditional software development projects. Due to this strong increase in popularity of agile approaches and techniques, many newcomers will enter the field of agile coaching. Of course without the very necessary real-life experience but proudly waving their Certified Professional Scrum Master Sensei Trainer Certificate proving they at least had two days of training.


Going through the hardship of two whole intense days of training becoming a Certified Agile Jedi Knight is worthwhile!

In my opinion, as a result many organizations and projects in the next couple of years will be coached why well-willing consultants who have barely made it through boot camp, and in the famous Shu-Ha-Ri learning model haven’t yet made it beyond copying their teacher. This will lead to very dogmatic applications of the more popular agile approaches, mostly Scrum, especially when the so-called leaders in the field themselves turn to dogma. This dogmatic thinking will block the use of more mature techniques and technology in agile projects, even when these would really improve projects, or would prevent agile projects from failing. “No, you can not do modeling in Scrum” and “Burn-down charts are mandatory” are two such simple real-life example statements that I’ve witnessed some certified agile Jedi Knight make. Due to this lack of experience and the growing dogmatism in the agile beliefs, more and more agile projects will fail. Death by dogma.

During my keynote I discussed many examples of dogmatic Scrum implementations and the drawbacks from being dogmagile, building the story up from my previous posts Scrumdamentalists and Crusaders and Flower-Power Agile Fluffiness.

But maybe even more important during the keynote I also show that there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all agile. Different organizations and different projects require different agile approaches. Sometimes lightweight agile, for instance implemented using Scrum, user stories, simple planning, simple estimation, and one co-located team using post-its on a wall is just fine. But in many projects the way of working used should rather be built up from slightly more enterprise ready approaches, for example using Smart, smart use cases, standardized estimation, multiple distributed teams and on-line dashboards.

What is agile anyway?

Implementing agile in your projects starts with establishing what it means to be in an agile project. As I demonstrate in the keynote, I consider short iterations, collaborative teams, a small unit of work, continuous planning, delivering early and often, and simplifying communication to be crucial to considering a project working in an agile way.

From there you can pick and choose from a wide variety of approaches, techniques and technology. Most of them stemming from the agile era, but some of them can also be related to older (or more mature) era’s. Concluding you might say that to be successful in implementing agile in your organization, you will need to assemble your agile approach from everything that will help you implement these six agile bare necessities. Anyway, enjoy!